Tag Archives For: POC author

02 Feb, 2017

Black Titan – The Story of A.G. Gaston

/ posted in: Reading Black Titan – The Story of A.G. Gaston Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins, Elizabeth Gardner Hines
on December 2003
Pages: 330
Genres: 20th Century, Biography & Autobiography, Civil Rights, History, Nonfiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: Alabama

The grandson of slaves, born into poverty in 1892 in the Deep South, A. G. Gaston died more than a century later with a fortune worth well over $130 million and a business empire spanning communications, real estate, and insurance. Gaston was, by any measure, a heroic figure whose wealth and influence bore comparison to J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie. Here, for the first time, is the story of the life of this extraordinary pioneer, told by his niece and grandniece, the award-winning television journalist Carol Jenkins and her daughter Elizabeth Gardner Hines.


I had never heard of A.G. Gaston before this book showed up on Book Bub last year.  I’m glad I found out about him.  He had a remarkable life.

A.G. Gaston’s grandparents were slaves.  His grandfather worked with horses and his grandmother was an accomplished cook.  These were considered “privileged” positions.  When slavery ended they stayed on working for the family that previously owned them.  His grandmother taught his mother to cook and she also earned a living working for wealthy white families as a live-in cook and as a sought after caterer.  This put A.G. in contact with wealth at a young age.

When he was young there were two broad schools of thought about black advancement.  Booker T. Washington believed that black people should stay where they were and work hard to advance economically before looking for social equality.  W.E.B. DuBois believed in fighting for social equality and letting the “talented tenth” of black elites raise up the rest of the community.  A.G. Gaston spent his life firmly in Booker T. Washington’s camp.

After serving in WWI, he returned to Alabama and couldn’t find a good job.  He had to take work in the mines.  He saw widows begging for money to pay for their miner husbands’ funerals.  He started a burial insurance business.  From there he bought funeral homes.  Eventually he started a bank for black people and a business training school.

He was in his seventies and wealthy when the civil rights movement game to Birmingham.  He owned the only black hotel so Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference set up shop there.  I got the impression that he thought they were young radical whippersnappers.  He argued for moderation.  He wanted to negotiate instead of marching.  But, he was the person that repeatedly bailed them out of jail – whether they wanted bailed out or not.  He also argued vehemently against involving children in the marches and then secured the bond for the release of all the children jailed.  People spoke of him as being too deferential to the white businessmen, especially if they didn’t know that he was bankrolling a lot of the protests.

His hotel was bombed.   His house was bombed.  (He said he couldn’t be sure if it was white or black people who wanted to bomb his house.)  Bombs were set at other of his properties but were found before they went off.  He let the marchers on the way to Selma camp on one of farms one night.  He was even kidnapped.

After the protests moved away from Birmingham, he stayed and continued to serve the community.  He was a philanthropist.  Eventually he sold his business empire to his employees for a tenth of its worth to maintain local black control.

A.G. Gaston died at the age of 103.  His story is amazing.  He should definitely be better known.


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • POC authors
19 Sep, 2016

How To Read More Diversely

/ posted in: Reading

This week has been #DiverseAThon on Twitter.  If you haven’t seen it, it is worth going back through some of the discussions.

One thing that keeps coming up is,

How Do I Find More Diverse Books To Read?

When you first notice that you are reading primarily (or only) white authors, you get confused.  These are the books that you want to read.  Why should you read anything else?  If other books were available and were any good, you’d know about them, right?

Let me tell you a story

I’m the poster child for whiteness.  I’m straight.  The only minority status I can claim at all is being female and we’re actually the majority.

A few years ago I took part in a challenge to read a book from each of the 50 states in the course of a year.  That was my first experience with reading with intention and picking books on criteria other than just, “That sounds good.”

I enjoyed the challenge so the next year I decided to join a group reading books from other countries.  I started to notice a difference in the tone and richness of books written by, say, an American or British author about Zimbabwe and a Zimbabwean author writing about her country.  (If you ever feel a need to read a book from a specific country, this is the best list on the internet. )

About this time I found #Diversiverse.  This was 2 week readathon every October devoted to authors from backgrounds other than my own.  This was the mantra:

“Reading diversely may require you to change your book finding habits.  It ABSOLUTELY does not require you to change your book reading habits.”  Aarti

Now, even with book recommendations by authors of color making up a lot of my TBR lists, I still end up reading majority white authors.  It is just the way the world is unfortunately.

I got nerdy last year and made charts for the books I read in 2015.

This is the racial make up of Earth.


This is the racial make up of female authors I read.


And male authors


That’s with actively seeking out POC authors.  If you aren’t intentionally seeking out non-white authors, you aren’t likely to stumble across many accidentally.

Steps To Take

Set a Goal and Be Accountable

If you are reading all white authors now, set a goal to read one POC author a month.  Report how you did in your monthly wrap up post.  Something magical will happen if you set this goalYou will notice more diverse books around you.  You know how if you get a certain type of car, suddenly it seems like there are so many more of them on the road?  Same thing.  If you are aware and looking for something, you will see it. You’ll be shocked that you were blind to it before.

Now when I see a book review when I’m scrolling through Twitter or see a book by a POC author on a shelf, my brain gives it a quick second look.  Sometimes that pause that comes from noticing what is around you leads you to take a look at a book that you might have blindly walked or scrolled past before.

Follow People Who Promote All Types of Books

  • Check out the #diversebookbloggers and #weneeddiversebooks tags on Twitter.  There are loads of books discussed here.  Looking for a book in a specific genre?  Ask a question and get loads of recommendations.
  • Book Riot does a good job of incorporating a wide variety of books in their lists

Follow POC authors you like and see who they are reading and recommending

Here’s a few to get you started.

  • Courtney Milan is a Regency romance writer (@courtneymilan)
  • Tananarive Due is a horror writer who also teaches.  DJ Older was one of her students. (@tananarivedue)
  • Margret Helgadottir is a Scandinavian writer who edits anthologies with lots of POC authors. (@mahelgad)
  • Mona Eltahawy writes about feminism in the Middle East (@monaeltahawy)

Don’t Give Up if You Don’t Like a Book

Don’t be like, “See, I knew these books were no good.”  I am the Queen of the DNF.  There are too many books in the world to read to be forcing yourself through one you don’t like.  But, do you like every YA book/mystery/romance you read?  Did you let one boring book turn you off a whole genre or did you try another book to see if you liked it better?  Same thing here.  Not every book is a fit for every reader but when you are trying something new, it is tempting to write it all off as a loss if the first one or two aren’t your favorites.


For people who tend to read books that are out of the mainstream, how did you get started?